Kiran Leonard Interview: “Insecurity Begets Insecurity”

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kiran leonard interview

New Album Grapefruit  Out 25 March Via Moshi Moshi.

Manchester youngster Kiran Leonard isn’t exactly one to play safe. The thought of vocalists from the big Northern city might conjure up images of the bravado of Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher, the minimalism of Badly Drawn Boy or the made-for-Radio 2 smoothness of David Gray. What you would probably not expect from a Mancunian is prog/math-rock, undulating vocals, lyrics about cephalopod attacks and influences so diverse it’s probably easier to name what doesn’t influence him.

We caught up with the mercurially talented Leonard ahead of the March 25 release of new album Grapefruit via Moshi Moshi, and a UK tour kicking off in Leeds the day before.

24 March – Leeds, Brudenell Social
25 March – York, Fulford Arms
26 March – Stockton, Georgian Theatre
27 March – Newcastle, Cumberland Arms
28 March – Edinburgh, Electric Circus
30 March – Manchester, Soup Kitchen
31 March – Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
01 April – Oxford, Bullingdon
02 April – Bath, The Nest
04 April – London, The Lexington
05 April – Ramsgate, Music Hall
06 April – Cambridge, Portland Arms
07 April – Nottingham, Bodega
09 April – Cardiff, DimSŵn

Overblown: The Line Of Best Fit described the video for ‘Pink Fruit’ as “frankly bizarre.” Who created the video? where did the concept come from?

Kiran Leonard: i made the video with ruby o’grady last december. thematically it’s pretty faithful to what happens in the song, other than that instead of a squid being in the women’s abdomen, it’s an octopus that emerges into the room through the door and affronts the male protagonist from behind (and you could spend all day extracting the significance of those revisions but the bottom line is that octopus tentacles look better on camera than weedy angel-hair squiddy legs, and we couldn’t find out a way to shoot an abdomened octopus without unavailable prosthetics or making it look like the octopus was coming out of the female protagonist’s vagina, a connotation we definitely wanted to avoid [not that that’s stopped a variety of music sites falsely accusing the song of having zoophilic overtones]). really the song’s about the body insecurities you undergo as an adolescent, whatever your gender, and the way that insecurity begets more insecurity, via this act of defensive belittling and insulting

Q. You’re following up your EP ‘Pink Fruit’ with the new album ‘Grapefruit’. What’s with the fruit theme?

i like tracks that are nearly eponymous tracks but not quite. like that deerhoof album called ‘breakup song’ and the first track is called ‘breakup songs’. so the phrase ‘pink fruit’ is derived from ‘grapefruit’. like the revised camera angles in the video, it’s one of those things with either pragmatic or debased, aesthetic roots (‘grapefruit’, i dunno, it’s just a cool word, ‘pomplamousse’ in french, it’s a funny one) but you can spend all day ascribing your own meaning to it. is it sexual, or to do w impermanence (rotting), or poison, or satisfaction? whatever u want bbe. do the job for me ha knock yeself out

Q. You’re about to start your biggest tour to date. Aside from your hometown of Manchester, which towns and venues are you most looking forward to?

oxford too cause i’m mostly living there at the moment. looking forward to the brudenell too cause i’ve shamefully never been. i was gonna go and see shellac but those damn ethical bastards wouldn’t work with any online ticket vendors so i’d have had to go all the way to leeds just to buy tickets. thanks a LOT, steve

Q. What can we expect from your live shows? Is there a lot of improvisation?

aye yeah we like to do a bit, improvisation within determined boundaries, like. i like to keep live stuff simplistic (i.e. no pedals, other than a chromatic tuner) and computer/metronome-less so that there’s this room for messing about with stuff a bit. not that i’m about the snobby rage against the machine ‘no synthesisers’ stuff (we do use a synthesiser), but i think it makes playing the songs a bit more engaging if they can end up being a little bit different every time

Q. Tell us a little about your backing band. Do they have any input into the writing process?

i write and record everything on my own (hence why we tour under my name rather than a band name). i outline basic musical arrangements for each band member and they can either follow them verbatim or find their own variation on the given arrangement. dave [bass] tends to just listen to the recordings and come up with his own bass line. and all of them are much more skilled on their chosen instruments than i am so they can always improve the arrangement i provide

Q. You seem incredibly musically aware. Has music been a part of your life from an early age, and have you always had wide and eclectic tastes?

aye yeah my dad and my siblings all play instruments + that so there’s always been tons of it in the house (i am the forth of five). i’m a bit skeptical about this notion of ‘eclectic taste’, because i’ve never met anyone whose tastes weren’t eclectic; human beings are complicated and they’re naturally interested in lots of different stuff, and whatever they’re particularly passionate about they will inherently digest a lot of. bill nye’s speciality is mechanical engineering but that doesn’t mean that he can’t debate a creationist on darwinian theory. is that directly analogous? maybe it isn’t actually, but you get my point, right? i don’t believe in the musician who only likes bands that sound like the smiths, or only just interested in music, for that matter

Q. The version of ‘Pink Fruit’ on your new album is 16 minutes long. Does radio-friendliness ever cross your mind?

well, there is a radio edit of that song. and there is an inventiveness to radio edits; i’m not about the whole “fuck the radio!!!!” sort of contrarian, holier-than-thou attitude. stations that play non-top 40 stuff do exist.

Q. There seems to be no musical boundary you’re not prepared to push. What’s the next challenge for Kiran Leonard?

i’m going to have a cup of tea and finish reading heart of darkness (as summarised by my housemate, ‘pretty good, but pretty racist as well’)

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